When I go to church and am listening to the sermon, I have this bad habit of reading the passage being preached from. I know, I know. I should just turn off my brain, go into a meditative state and just accept the message being given. But sometimes I can’t. Sometimes something in the passage just catches my eye and my mind immediately latches on and I can’t let go of it. That is what happened this morning as the guest speaker was sharing from the parable of the good Samaritan.
On top of the fact that I like to read what is being preached from, I also like to pay special attention when it is the words of Jesus. Again, something I probably shouldn’t do as this line of thinking tends to get in the way of AmeriChrist, Inc. Not to mention, it’s incredibly convicting. Nine times out of 10, the words of Jesus hurt like the dickens.
Today’s meditation was no different and yielded an interesting nuance in the story that I don’t think I’ve heard spoken of much. Here’s the scenario: a lawyer comes up to Jesus and asks what he’s gotta do to get true life. Jesus asks him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” This was the first thing that stood out, and Allan mentioned it too, and it was this idea that jesus believed that eternal life was found in the Christian Old Testament (more or less). He didn’t go any further in that line of thinking, which I thought was good because it means he planted that seed of thought in the congregation’s mind and it can grow there and people can draw their own conclusions, which I’ll do later. This wasn’t what snared me and ripped my attention from the message being given.
The story goes on.
The lawyer responds with two quotes from the Law: “Love the Lord your God with everything that you are” and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. Jesus tells him that he’s got it. But the Lawyer has a deeper plan and he says, “But who’s my neighbor?” This is where Jesus tells His infamous story that makes a whole crowd of people pretty uncomfortable about the priest and the Levite who ignore the beat up guy on the side of the road and the Samaritan who helps him out.
This is where I got hung up. Allan pointed out the animosity between the Jews and Samaritans over their breeding and religion. He also mentioned how there was probably some pretty nasty tension between the two peoples. They were by all rights enemies in the truest sense.
The first thing that stood out was that this Jew was “going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” So, the man who gets beat up was a faithful Jew. He had gone to temple and was on his way home. He’s beat up and what happens? His enemy sees him and not only bandages his wounds, but gives him a bath. Or, as I said it in my journal, “A faithful Jew is beat up and left for dead, and his enemy nurses him back to health.”
So, before turning the tale upside down and calling us to do likewise, He says, in a nutshell, that our neighbors are those who show us mercy. Jumping back up to what the Law says, the calling is to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Or, to say it another way, “Love those who show mercy on you.”
In light of some current situations going on within the family, this seemed a painful lesson. I was hung up on it the rest of the service. Does this mean I don’t have to love the one who keeps hurting all of us? Is this really what is expected of me? Of course Jesus dealt with this mentality. He tells us it is not right. But He doesn’t change any definitions. Those who hurt us are not our neighbors.
But sometimes they are. We need to be like that rare Republican who helps the illegal immigrant. This is the call. This is the Jesus ethic. But it’s still something to think about. And this story really puts the Jesus ethic into its proper perspective.